I haven’t seen Hannah in a year. I’m so excited for this lunch and planned it so that she could brighten my day after the writing class that would critique a manuscript that has been torn apart and refolded for months. I am so engaged in catching up that the waitress has to return four times. My eyes scan the menu quickly not wanting to stop the conversation. Its format mimics a newspaper. Halfway down the page is the description for a “Mayan wrap”.
Hannah sees me pause. “That’s really good. I get it a lot,” she offers.
“Mayan wrap. You must be kidding. None of my ‘Mayan’ friends put spinach in their tortilla. I wouldn’t call them my ‘Mayan’ friends at all since each individual is from a distinct group: Kaqchikel, Quiche’.” Which is just one reason why the critique of my recent manuscript hit me so hard. All that's fit to print. . .
“I know.” Hannah drops her head down. “It’s silly.”
We are in a casual pub restaurant and I chew on my words along with a spicy pasta after getting the manuscript critique back. At least two of the women in the group most likely didn’t make it to the end, since their comments ran out halfway through the pages. Or maybe it was the ink. . .
“They were confused,” I say aloud. "That's what they said. And annoyed at the use of multiple languages."
Hannah nods and eats her salad.
“But I wonder, is the confusion all my skill level or are they less likely to want to be confused by what I am writing about?" This question worries me considerably. "Are they simply more likely to be confused because this book is not what they always read?” I make a note on a napkin to myself. “Why does the person who can pay for professional writing critique get a pass on not having much to say because “it’s not her genre” while no child outside of the powerful published may venture that opinion in school?”
Hannah sips her water.
The air conditioning bites back at the spice in my mouth. I know I will finish each bite which is unlike me. Normally I consider when I can stop and still ask for a box without having the server wonder why I didn't just finish the meal. I had considered the “Mayan Wrap” that Hannah ordered, but coming off the heels of the writer’s workshop, couldn’t stomach the hypocrisy.
Forkful by forkful I don't stop. “They didn’t like the dream sequences, but I tried to research Guatemala just at the ‘end’ of the conquest when lands were considered conquered. I didn’t find much. The teacher said, you’re a writer, imagine it. Make it up. I can’t just make it up. I barely have the right to be writing some of these character’s perspective at all. I can’t just make it up.”
Hannah wipes her mouth after she finishes her “Mayan Wrap”.
“Because you know what happens? Someone thinks it’s true. They read it and think it’s true, and maybe it is but I don’t know and am likely to have to rely on stereotypes for what I don’t know which is the whole point of what the book is not about.”
Her napkin moves from her lap to her plate. I scrape a finger along the sauce and then regret it. I pull the desert menu towards me. I can't order alcohol because I have an hour drive home.
“Let’s order desert,” Hannah puts words to what I almost never say.
Lemon and raspberry cheesecake in a canning jar is both frustrating and reassuring. "I could make this. It would be a great idea for a party. "
Hannah lets me have the last forkful.
"You know there was one girl." I can still see her leaning forward in the oversized chair in my instructor's living room. "She liked it. But after everyone spoke, I got the feeling she pulled back like she perceived from the group she wasn't supposed to like it."
We pay the bill and use the bathroom. I choke back sobs the entire drive home.
For more wonderful videos related to teacher training or literacy program development in rural Guatemala, please visit www.child-aid.org. I have no v...